The benefits of having the right HR and/or payroll technology in an organisation are well-known: smarter decision-making, streamlined workflows, deeper data insights, automated processes and increased productivity – to name just a few. However, getting senior leadership buy-in and support for investments in HR technology can still be a major stumbling block. How can you convince sceptical leaders to support your tech project?
HR professionals sometimes lack the tools or experience needed to convince CEOs and other C-suite execs about what the business stands to gain from implementing HR technology. It’s tempting to simply push the “HR agenda” when presenting the case for investment. A smarter approach is to play the role of a business leader who happens to specialise in the HR function. That means creating an air-tight business case that clearly outlines the benefits to not just HR but the overall business and employees as well.
A comprehensive business case can be invaluable for obtaining executive and senior leadership buy-in. Based on solid research and built upon a mix of qualitative and quantitative metrics to demonstrate expected ROI, a business case will outline the current state of play, outline the tangible (and intangible) benefits of investment, and provide recommendations and suggestions on the way forward (e.g. how the tech will be rolled out).
Here’s what you need to cover in a business case focused on implementing new HR technology.
- An Executive Summary
Executives and senior leaders are busy juggling multiple tasks. An Executive Summary will effectively summarise the business case, providing general insights about the objectives, organisational need, recommendations and expected return on investment, so that the “gist” of the document can be digested quickly. In a nutshell, what’s driving the need for this investment and what’s at stake? As this is intended as a succinct summary of content, you may want to complete this section last.
- Provide the context
To ensure everyone is on the same page, it’s important to outline the current issues facing the organisation and the opportunities that an investment in new technology might bring. Current issues may include an over-reliance on manual or ad-hoc processes, too many data-entry errors, complicated and labour-intensive workflows, too many disparate technology solutions (or none at all), and a lack of reporting functionality.
- Outline what can be gained
Speaking “the language of business” means understanding how to calculate expected ROI. This section outlines the objectives of the tech investment – both in terms of expected ROI and other outcomes. For example, if an expected business objective is to implement an integrated HR tech solution in 2019, using a phased approach for different modules, clearly outline what the expected outcomes or ROI might be. Examples might include: providing a single source of truth for HR data, reducing compliance risk and boosting employee engagement. Don’t forget to think holistically about the possible outcomes – don’t just think about what HR might gain.
- Provide in-depth analysis
This is your chance to “go deep” in outlining the current problem(s) and why it’s important to take action. To add to the “what’s at stake” analysis, consider outlining what might happen if no action is taken. Will the current situation continue, or will it change and possibly decline? If you don’t have internally generated data and analytics to back up your argument, it’s ok to include externally sourced data – for example, to demonstrate how a lengthy recruitment process can cause employers to miss out on key talent, ultimately costing time and money and risking reputational damage.
- Offer your recommendations
This section shows that you’ve done your research, have canvassed the market, road-tested several tech options, and have come up with the solution that best suits your organisation’s needs. Provide an outline of the vendor and how implementing their solution will resolve your challenges and provide clear business benefits. Also outline how the solution will impact various parts of the business, stating the expected degree of impact.
- Outline the way forward – change management
Related to the above, this section can help to reassure the business that a plan is in place to manage change, including the steps involved and the communication that needs to occur to all relevant stakeholders. This doesn’t need to be a fully-detailed change management plan – you’ll probably want to do that separately – but it should provide peace of mind that should the go-ahead for tech investment be granted, a plan is in place to make it a reality.
- Detail technical feasibility issues
This section details any specific technical considerations that need to be addressed in order for implementation to succeed.
- Outline the risks – what’s at stake
A balanced business case will highlight any potential risks that tech implementation brings, as well as tips on how these risks can be mitigated. For example, insufficient planning could be a significant risk, however, this can be mitigated by having both a dedicated internal project manager onboard, as well as one provided by the vendor.
- Provide a timeline – what to expect, and when
A project timeline can provide clarity around when key tasks and events will occur, and who needs to be involved. Key milestones might include the requirements gathering phase, system set-up and configuration, training, pilot testing and go-live.
- Undertake a cost-benefit analysis
An outline of the financial costs and benefits of implementing a new system. This can include the quote from the vendor, and potential ROI obtained through tools like online calculators.
- Detail stakeholder involvement
Implementation of new HR software requires the support and expertise of a wide range of stakeholders, from the Executive Team to HR, and through to the Management Information System team, Finance, Marketing and Communications. This section clearly outlines who needs to be involved and what their role will be.
Two final tips…
Data is critical to crafting a business case with weight. Try to demonstrate where key bottlenecks occur and what that means in terms of delays in hiring (for example), and calculate the employee hours it takes to work collectively on one work-around process. Then turn that number into dollars – and finally show the cost savings.
Secondly, attempt to secure internal sponsorship. While you may be acutely aware of the need to upgrade HR technology, it’s quite possible that other leaders are just as aware. They may also be sharing your pain and see the opportunities that an upgrade may bring. Be visible, know what the pain points are for your fellow business leaders, and get their buy-in. Cross-functional support can ensure it’s not viewed as solely “HR’s problem” but instead is a far-reaching organisation-wide problem that needs to be addressed.